analysis

Excess Baggage vs A Life Less Ordinary

 

Both films were released in 1997.  Both are about a spoiled rich girl, trying to get her father’s attention, who is accidentally kidnapped by a troubled young man. In both cases they fall in love. I wouldn’t really call either films an example of Stockholm Syndrome, even though in both cases the kidnapping “victim”  identifies with the kidnapper, because the kidnappings are  accidental.
It often happens that movies with similar plots are released by different studios in the same year.  What makes a difference is the screenplay, director and cast.

spoilers

A Life Less Ordinary (ALLO for sake of comparison):
Running time: 103 min      Rated: R
Tagline: “A comedy for anyone who’s ever been in danger…of falling in love.”

Robert (Ewan McGregor) loses his job and confronts the company president.  He impulsively takes the boss’s daughter, Celine (Cameron Diaz),  as a hostage. He now finds himself as a kidnapper on the run with Celine.  In the meanwhile, Jackson (Delroy Lindo) and O’Reilly (Holly Hunter),  are two angels on a mission from God to reestablish romance between modern man and woman.

Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Cast includes: Dan Hedaya, Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Ian Holm and Timothy Olyphant.

Excess Baggage (EB for sake of comparison):
 Running time: 101 min      Rated: PG-13
Tagline: “You would NOT believe what a girl’s got to do, just to get a little attention”
A spoiled teenager, Emily (Alicia Silverstone), fakes her own kidnapping.  While she is in the trunk of her car, Vincent (Bencio Del Toro), a car thief steals her car and inadvertently becomes a kidnapper. There are sparks between them and they form a special bond. In the meanwhile her father has sent his associate, ” Uncle Ray” (Christopher Walken) to retrieve Emily.

Director: Marco Brambilla
Writer:  Max. D Adams (story & screenplay), Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais.
Cast includes: Harry Connick Jr., Jack Thompson and Nicholas Turturro.

Comparison:

  • EB is more realistic than ALLO, which has the fantasy element of two angels on a mission.
  • ALLO employs Deux ex machina. 
  • ALLO overall has the better cast and acting performances.
  • EB: Alicia  Silverstone  was nominated for a worst actress Razzie. Good performances from Walken and Del Toro.
  • ALLO has a more famous writer and director.
  • ALLO has better overall cinematogrpahy and editing.
  • Both have cool soundtracks.
  • EB is more main stream and did better at the box office.
  • EB was made for a budget of ± $20,000,000  and ALLO for  ± $12,000,000 (source: imdb)
  • ALLO has funnier dialogue.
  • The romantic relationship in ALLO is more volatile.
  • Emily (EB) fakes her own kidnapping to get attention and then gets kidnapped for real… Celine (ALLO) gets kidnapped by mistakes but then decides to exploit the situation (and test how much her father loves her), by making Robert demand a ransom.
  • Both female leads are willful and opinionated and will speak their minds, but Celine (ALLO) is more independent and a stronger character.
  • Both women are American.
  • Robert( ALLO) is just   sweet, but frustrated guy, a bit of a loser,  who is at the wrong time and the wrong place and haplessly becomes a criminal.  Vincent (EB) is a career criminal (who wants out), who is also at the wrong place at the wrong time and gets sucked into s sticky situation.
  • Both male characters are of foreign origin. Vincent is Latino and Robert is British.

I enjoyed both movies, but I slightly favour A Lifeless Ordinary, as it is quirkier and a lot more absurd, albeit a little over the top.  It also briefly features two beautiful Dobermans.

 

Memorable Dialogue:

——————————————————————————————————————————
Emily vs. Celine:

===Excess Baggage===

EMILY:
What… you’re done? You don’t wanna play anymore?

**
EMILY:
Oh, hi Dad, I’m okay but um… Daddy he made me touch his penis.

VINCENT:
[Vincent hangs up the phone] Touch what?

EMILY: Oops.
===A Life Less Ordinary===

CELINE:
“Kidnap For Beginners”, Chapter One. Have you even asked for a ransom yet?
**

CELINE:
If word got around that I had been liberated for half a million dollars, I could never show my face in polite society again. Diamonds have no value except that which is placed upon them.
—————————————————————————————————————————–

Vincent vs. Robert

===Excess Baggage===

VINCENT:
I once stole a Ferrari with a Chihuahua in the back. He made less noise than you do.

**
VINCENT:
I’ve known this girl for two days, are you tellin’ me I care more about her than you? You son of a bitch! You should’ve sold her when she was born for cash value Mr. Business Man!


===A Life Less Ordinary===

ROBERT:
Right you asshole, I’ve got your daughter here, and I’m gonna send her back in pieces if… OH! I’m sorry, madam. No, I haven’t got your daughter here, I’ve got someone else’s. No, we’re not married. Yes, I’ve read the same thing, it’s very hard to find suitable young men these days. Well, I’m sure your daughter’s very nice, in principle I’ve got no objection to meeting her…
[Celine hangs up the phone]

——————————————————————————————————————————

Relationships: 

===Excess Baggage:===

VINCENT:
How stupid do you think I am, huh?

EMILY:
How stupid is there?
**

VINCENT:
I got a Twinkie in the car. It’s all yours, if you want it. Just make this call for me.
**
VINCENT:
Let’s see… we’ve got rum, tequila and rum… Rum and tequila. What would you like?

EMILY:
You don’t have to be drunk to kiss me.

VINCENT:
Well… I’m not drunk.
===A Life Less Ordinary===

ROBERT:
Why are you such a pain to be with?

CELINE:
Because you tied me to a chair all night.
**

CELINE
Despite your crummy poem, I came to see you and all you could do was humiliate me and turn me away. I thought you were decent, but it turns out you’re just a lying, cheating bastard like all the rest.
**
CELINE:
What’s wrong?

ROBERT:
What’s wrong, you crazy bitch, is I thought you were gonna shoot me! THAT’S what’s wrong!

—————————————————————————————————————————

©lowercase v  2017 

 

movie reviews

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

Running time: 103 min       Rated: R

A Life Less Ordinary was released 20 years ago…

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Robert (Ewan McGregor), a cleaner and aspiring romance novelist, loses his job.  He confronts the company president and in the process takes the boss’s daughter, Celine (Cameron Diaz) as a hostage. He now finds himself as a kidnapper on the run with Celine. There are sparks between them and as they spend more time together, the possibility of romance. In the mean time, two angels, Jackson (Delroy Lindo) and O’Reilly (Holly Hunter) are stuck on earth with the mission to romantically united a man and a woman.

A Life Less Ordinary was directed by acclaimed British director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by frequent collaborator John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach).

The subplot of the top angels adds a fantasy element to the otherwise gritty movie.  The subplot makes the movie more quirky, but it could probably stand without it. The dialogue is witty and the cast is on point.  The film is technically well made and edited. I like the score and the soundtrack . I would not say this is a case of Stockholm Syndrome, because the kidnapping is accidental. Overall, I enjoyed this movie and it is one of my favourites.

Also starring: Dan Hedaya, Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Ian Holm, Timothy Olyphant.

 

*A film with a similar premise, Excess Baggage was released also released in 1997. Look out for my review and my comparison of the two films.

©lowercase v   2017